Muslims should make peace with Germany, argues former hate preacher Mohammed El Fazazi, the man who once provided religious instruction to the men behind the 9/11 terror attacks. In 2001, imam Mohammed El Fazazi of Morocco preached that it it is a Muslim obligation to “slit the throats of non-believers” in a Hamburg mosque. Among his listeners and star pupils were Mohammed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh and Marwan al-Shehhi, three of the men who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Today, eight years later, Mohammed El Fazazi has foresworn acts of terrorism against Western targets. “I admit that I went too far and overshot the target,” he wrote in an open letter to his daughter, who lives in Hamburg, and Muslims living in Germany.
Muslims living in Germany, he said, should draw attention to themselves and their issues through “peaceful demonstrations, strikes and protests that are far removed from indiscriminate attacks” and the “killing of innocent people with the argument of killing kuffar,” or non-believers.
The communities secretary, John Denham, is to attempt a fresh start in the government’s relationship with British Muslims after acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the drive against violent extremism in the UK.
Denham said he wanted to see a clear policy shift away from defining the government’s relationship with Muslim communities entirely in terms of tackling extremism. New, revised guidance on the operation of the £45m Prevent strategy, which is intended to challenge violent extremist ideology and disrupt those who promote it, is to be drawn up this summer.
The new approach is expected to ensure that funding goes to a wider range of organisations, while a more explicit strategy to resist white racist extremism is also being developed.
Like any rousing Islamic preacher, Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri’s voice rises to a shout and his index finger jabs as he hammers home a point. But rather than angry calls for jihad (holy war) or a vitriolic denunciation of the West and its aggressions against Islam, Qadri’s message, equally forcefully delivered, is about moderation, peace, inclusion and understanding.
Addressing a packed auditorium from a raised platform, his words beamed on to large screen behind him, more than 1,000 young followers hang on his every word, even as his lecture moves into its fourth uninterrupted hour. Qadri, 58, who was born in Pakistan but now lives in Canada, is a renowned scholar of Sufism, a long tradition within Islam that focuses on spirituality, emphasising peace and moderation. In Britain, he is the main draw at a three-day retreat for young Muslims called “Al Hidayah” (Guidance), which over the past five years has grown into the biggest spiritual camp of its kind, with more than 1,200 attendees from a dozen countries.
The British government has worked to promote Sufism, supporting the creation in 2006 of the Sufi Muslim Council, a group that took a strong stand against Islamist extremism. But since then, it has moved away from explicit support, saying that working via the Sufi community — whose exact number in Britain is not known — is just one element of a wider approach to countering Islamic radicalism.
The founder of the British Muslim Forum has said hate-filled Islamic extremists should leave the country. Senior Muslim scholar Sheiykh Allama Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE was speaking at an event to bring Kirklees (West Yorkshire) communities together.
He said: “To those extremists who are using and abusing the name of Islam by making silly ill-thought out statements, my message to you is leave this country if you are not happy. If you hate pork, if you hate other non-Muslims, if you hate the police, if you hate moderate Sufi Muslims, if you hate the British Government, then feel welcome to leave this country. We do not need you here to stir up hatred. There is no place for racism and extremism in Islam.”